France: A New Participant In Brain Drain?

India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It is evident that the process of learning, education and research also made considerable progress in ancient India. The Nalanda University, now an ancient ruin and a tourist spot had at one time produced many meritorious Indian scholars. It was Aryabhatta, the ancient Indian mathematician who conceived the concept of the numeral “zero” that changed the fundamentals of mathematics completely. The contribution of the ancient Indian scholars in the fields of research in science, mathematics, literature, philosophy and many other subjects is undisputed.

Till date, Indian scholars remain one of the finest scholars in the whole world and are much sought after by many countries. Perhaps this coined the term “brain drain” in the 1960s, which essentially means the emigration of skilled workforce from poorer to the richer countries in search of a better life and opportunities. Such loss of potential talent is a major concern for a developing nation like India. But there are many factors that contribute to this brain drain. Indian education system is one of the finest education systems and Indian educational institutes are one of the most elite institutes in the world. But the fact remains that India is a third world country and the costs of higher education in India are exorbitant. Higher education breeds higher ambitions. So when a talented ambitious young scholar/student realizes that India is failing to do justice to his ambitions, we can’t really blame him if he tries his luck for higher studies abroad. And, in most cases, they succeed because of the edge they have over other competing foreign scholars.

The most preferred destinations are the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Germany. Now countries like France are opening up their arms as evident from the announcement of the French Government to relax the visa norms especially for the Indian students who wish to pursue higher studies abroad. According to the French Ambassador to India, François Richier, “France is not challenging anybody but has introduced a number of measures to enable Indian students to study in my country.” He further added, “It is about opening our arms and hearts for Indian students by facilitating their stay, not only in the visa area but other things like training, taking care of jobs when they are back in India. It is a package thing.” The goal of this venture is to create a “France-India” network by opening its frontiers even wider to the Indian students as a show of goodwill that is shared by France and India. Applications for French educational visas will be processed by Indian officials on a priority basis.

The French bid to attract Indian students is further bolstered by the efforts of Campus France (governmental agency for promoting French higher education). It has taken several initiatives like establishing partnership with the Indian higher education institutes for exchange programs with the French Institutes. The “France- India job opportunities network” will extend all possible opportunities to the Indian students who have pursue higher education in France. A scholarship of Rs 7.1 crore has been announced for 235 meritorious Indian students aspiring to pursue higher education in France by the French Embassy and its corporate partners. A report reveals that compared to the meager 100 Indian students in France in 1998, 2600 Indian students have opted for higher education in France in 2012. The language barrier no longer offers a problem as over 700 courses are now being offered in English.

Even countries like Ireland are not far behind to attract Indian students for pursuing higher studies in Ireland. Ireland has recently announced 22 scholarships exclusively for Indian students. Last year Ireland had offered 15 scholarships. Prestigious Irish institutes like Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and the National University of Ireland are offering scholarships specifically to  Indian students.

The brain drain statistics are appalling. In the last decade, it has increased by a whopping 256%. In 2000, 53000 students opted for higher studies abroad. This figure has shot up to 1.9 lakhs in 2010. Though US with its bureaucratic red tape has become a student’s nightmare and UK is so saturated that now it is considering imposition of exorbitant visa cash bonds. But new frontiers like France and Ireland are opening up, so the brain drain will continue. A recent research shows that 94.8% Indians who opt for higher studies abroad like doctorates, never return to India. The only way to stop this brain drain is to revamp the educational system of India completely so that talented and ambitious young scholars can have the proper infrastructure for pursuing research and higher studies here, in India. Otherwise a time will soon come when mediocrity will be the middle name of the Indian education system.

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Nalanda University